10.4.15

Ray Mears on Dartmoor



Never was a program more relevant to me now than this .............

6.4.15





Well dear reader another weekend and another trip to the Moors. April 2015, this weekend was a game of two halves as the pictures above and below show.

Bleak and windswept with 20 mph driving rain and visibility down to about 20 meters the first days hiking was a mixture of pleasure and .............. lost drills! Yep, geographically embarassed ........... but hey you know what - there was no panic! Dead proud of that, cool and calm problem solving saved the day as well as a squished corn dog sarny and a pork pie ............. these and a percy pig or three! Navigation was critical in such poor conditions but its this that sorts the men from the boys ........ 



 The next two days dawned clear. Much to my relief. Maybe these pictures will go some way to showing some of the Dartsmoors charms and maybe, just maybe help you understand part of the reason I have fallen in love with this wild rugged land.



And whose this handsome fellow?









21.3.15

Saxon warriors crush Viking invaders and plant Yew trees to celebrate

And now a few thousand years later we have Kingley Vale a rare Yew wood climbing up the chalky walls of the South Downs.

What no Moors ......... alas no ........... today I stayed local (13 miles from home) for a gentle walk around a beautiful and rare gem hidden in the folds of the downs.



12,000 Years ago at the end of the Ice age Kingley vale slowly repaired from under the crushing ice sheet that covered it. Slowly nature, with her infinte patience, re-populated the land with both beast and foliage.

Back then the area would have been part of "The Wildwood" and a tanlged mix of woodland, scrub and grasslands. Here deer and Aurochs roamed, herds of wild horses would be seen grazing the grasslands as well as predators like wolves and bears not to mention our own ancestors.






 Later in the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages early farmers cleared much of the wildwood and opened the land up for grazing - they also built hill forts and raised burial mounds such as the ones found at the Devils humps.

                                                              







The Romans came and built a temple on the hill ...........

And then in AD 895 the Norsemen came. Legend has it that a viking raiding party travelled through the vale on its way back to their ships. The Saxon warlord from near by Chichester mustered his Thegns and warriors and cut the norsemen off in the valley bottom.

The Saxons had a great victory and by way of celebration and memorial plants a grove of Yew trees at the site of the battle.


Let sleeping Dragons lay ............ 
                                 




War came the vale once more centuries laters as British and Canadian troops mustered in and around the south downs prior to the D-Day lands and Kingley Vale was no exception. The Yew woods and the skys above the vale were often the training grounds of Spitfire pilot and it is said that the Yews still bear the scares of Spitfire straifing runs ........






Memorial to a downed POLISH Hurricane pilot who died in the vale after a dog fight with a German 109

                                        

What a cracking little walk - a journey through history with some amazing views across the Solent and the Downs.


9.3.15

More from the Moors




Well dear reader, with a few days off at hand I decided, once again, to head off down to the Moors. Like a limpet to a rock I appear to be drawn back to this magical place. Why? As a self confessed Nemophilist I am not sure I can tell you. 

Certainly as a bushcrafter I wonder.

And yet, for me there is a magic there, a happiness I haven't felt for a long time. Wild and windy the Moors seem to have captured both my heart and my imagination.


This trip also had an ulterior motive - I have to confess as I wanted to test out a couple of new rucksacks and a new compass (reviews to follow) - but none the less it was as much for pleasure as anything else.


The sacks and compass were bought for the Tour De Mont Blanc hike I am planning for my 50th next year and as such I wanted to train with them all - to iron out any problems and to ensure I was happy with the kit I would be carrying.



As I say reviews of the items will follow - suffice to say for now that I am happy with them.

After much reviewing and list making the below is the basic kit I think I will take on the tour with me - and as such, is also the basic kit list I will train with for the rest of this year and two thirds of next year as I build up to the trip in September 2015.



In my Rucksack (65 - 85 litres) I pack the following


  • 3 season sleeping bag
  • bivi bag
  • Therma rest
  • Re-usable space blanket
  • Poncho
  • First Aid Kit
  • Wash kit 
  • Billy can with folding cups and Gas stove 
  • Brew kit and rations
  • 1 litre Flask
  • 1 litre Bladder
  • 1 litre Stainless Steel Water bottle
  • Knife and folding saw
  • Tinder pouch - containing tinder - lighter - fire steel - paracord.
  • 20m cordage - sharpening stone - Head torch
  • Radio
  • Map and guide book
  • Sunglasses and sun block
  • Walking poles
My spare clothing - 
  • 2 x socks
  • 1 x swimming trunks
  • 1 x Ullsfrotte zip neck top
  • 1 x Fleece Hoody
  • 1 x Down Jacket
  • 1 x Goretex Jacket
  • 1 x Wool mitts
  • 1 x Mountain cap
  • 1 x Shemagh
  • 1 x Woolly hat
  • 1 x flip flops
Carried On person - 
  • Map and Compass
  • Swiss army knife, small torch and whistle
  • Buff
  • Spoon
  • Lighter
  • Fresnel Lens 
  • Roamer 
  • Wallet
  • Lip Salve
Worn - 
  • Boots
  • Gaiters
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Craghopper trousers (with braces)
  • Merino t-shirt (base layer)
  • Ventile Jacket (soft shell)
  • Base ball cap 
Travel items

  • Passport
  • Tickets
  • Contact and Emergency phone Numbers
  • E111 Card
  • Phone




Quite a lot of gear but with a potential 10 day hike across the French, Swiss and Italian Alps planned I think its pretty good.



I digress ......... once more onto the Moors ........



The area visited this time was around the area of Princetown. The weather was good, the sun was out most of the time and the wind wasn't to harsh (except Saturday) so by Dartmoor standards it was tropical!! It certainly was great walking weather that was for sure.


Right from the off however things went a little awry - as I took the wrong track out of Princetown ......... lesson learnt as complacency can be a dangerous trait!! With Dartmoor covering some 368 square miles navigation is important so if your going to screw up doing it early at least means you recover your route quicker .... Fortunately for me I did and after a healthy portion of humble pie I was back on track and less cocky.



My circular route took me through a magnificent wooded area - earlier than expected i might add. As you can see from the above picture the woodland was amazing. The trees dwarfing me and lending the whole place a peaceful stillness. I could almost imagine myself in the Algonquin or some such forested scene from the Last of the Mohican's. Truly beautiful.


As a added bonus, or maybe a gift of the forest Goddess Freyja a small copse of young pines was found with a convenient opening ideally suit for a biving traveller. This became home!! And even a small stone fire place was provided.















Sleeping giants - oddly it appears the Moors dont have a recorded or oral history of stories about the rocks which cover it. By this I mean tales of Trolls and similar although I have found out about the Piskies. Trolls, which are common to the Norwegian Fjells seem strangly abcent from the moors yet to me the rocks speak otherwise, and I have to say laying upon the rocks, with Odin's Raven's Huginn and Munnin circling very low above me I quickly found my mind wandering off into childish tales of rock trolls and their friends the Dartmoor ponies ..........


Strange things can happen to a man on the Moors ........... and this trip, like my last, was a fantastic adventure.

PISKIES

THAR be piskies up to Dartymoor,
An' tidden gude yew zay there bain't.
I've felt 'em grawpin' at my heart,
 I've heard their voices callin' faint,
I've knawed a man be cruec down —
His soul fair stogged an' heavy-like —
Climb up to brawken Zaddle Tor
An' bare his head vor winds to strike.
An' all the gert black mawky griefs,
An' all the pain an' vog an' grime,
Have blawed away and left en clear
Like vuzz-bush vires in swalin' time.
An' what med do so brave a thing
As thic' white spells to tak an' weave,
But li'l piskies' vitty hands,
Or God Himself as give 'em leave ?
But tidden Him would stop an' spy
From Widdicombe to Cranmer Pule, T
o maze the schemin' li'l heart
Of every Jacky- Lantern fule !
For mebbe 'tis a lonesome rod
Or heather blooth, or peaty ling,
Or nobbut just a rainy combe — T
he spell that meks 'ee tek an' sing.
An' this I knaw, the li'l tods
Be ever callin' silver faint.
Thar be piskies up to Dartymoor,
An' tidden gude yew zay there bain't.